Trustees are investigating whether outside volunteers can take a larger role in school-based extra-curricular activities in the event teachers continue boycotting activities next fall.
One of the strategies teachers voted on earlier this spring as part of an action plan to resist Bill 22, the province’s controversial Education Improvement Act, was withdrawing from volunteer activities in schools, from coaching sports teams to overseeing clubs to helping out at events such as awards evenings.
The move resulted in the cancellation of some activities, events and field trips in Nanaimo school district.
Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said the board asked staff to develop an administrative policy and procedure regarding the use of volunteers in schools so that everyone has an idea of what to expect next fall if the job action continues.
“I don’t want to start next year and have all these black clouds hanging over people’s heads over what’s going to happen, what’s not going to happen,” he said. “We hope we’ll get an update in June.”
Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman, said the problem until now is that policies do exist around the use of community coaches and parent volunteers, but the policies are not collected in one document and a variety of different understandings emerged.
“We’ve never had a really good, clear policy,” she said. “It hasn’t been such an issue before because there were usually teachers available.”
Until now, policy on community coaches and parent volunteers is that if the outside person is to be alone with students, that person must be approved by a school principal after an interview, reference check and criminal record check are completed.
“Despite that, all overnight trips must have a staff sponsor present,” Reimer said.
Reimer wasn’t sure if this would be changed in the new proposed policy, but student safety is the primary focus.
She said senior management will also look into overnight field trips because this is an issue of concern to trustees and parents.
“Staff are well aware that this is an issue with trustees and parents, but there’s lots of work and discussion before a policy is formalized,” said Reimer.
Brennan said he hopes something can be worked out with regard to overnight trips, but only if it doesn’t expose the district to liability issues.